Price throws four scoreless; Rays tie Twins 6-6
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. – Justin Morneau is getting adjusted to his new role.
Morneau was named the Twins' regular designated hitter after missing much of the past two seasons because of injuries, including post-concussion syndrome. Morneau played several games at first base during spring training.
"The big thing was just to see him be able to go out there and play (first base), manager Ron Gardenhire said after the Twins and Tampa Bay Rays tied 6-6 Monday. "Then we saw the one play (earlier in the spring) where he dives over there by the dugout, and I'm going: 'This can't be good.' So we talked a little more and said let's just stick to the DH. He's comfortable doing it. He's been healthy all spring with no issues."
David Price pitched four shutout innings for Tampa Bay. Price is coming off a disappointing season. Five days before he is scheduled to pitch the Rays' second game against the New York Yankees, Price needed just 42 pitches to get through four innings.
"I feel good right now and I'm ready for Saturday," said Price, who gave up one hit and walked none while striking out six. "I liked everything I was throwing. I threw a really good curveball and my changeup is getting better every time I step on the mound. My slider was the best it's been. It's getting there, and hopefully I can regain the confidence and sharpness in that pitch."
After going 19-6 with a 2.72 earned run average in 2010 and finishing second in the AL Cy Young Award voting, Price slipped to 12-13 with a 3.49 ERA last season. Lack of run support hurt him, but he wasn't as efficient as he had been the year before — or on Monday.
"You're on or out in three pitches or less," he said. "That's something all pitchers want to do and it's what the great ones do every time out. Just working on efficiency and getting deeper into games, that's something all five of us (starting pitchers) take pride in."
The quick tempo suited Price, according to manager Joe Maddon.
"Anything that helps him find more consistency with his breaking pitches is a good thing, and I saw that today," Maddon said.
Twins starter Francisco Liriano struck out seven in five innings, but the Rays got to him for seven hits and three runs.
Danny Valencia, Lance Ray and Luke Hughes each homered off Tampa Bay relievers, and Cody Rogers' two-out, two-run homer tied it for the Rays in the bottom of the ninth.
Evan Longoria had two hits for the Rays and Sean Rodriguez hit his first home run.
NOTES: Rays outfielder Sam Fuld will undergo surgery Tuesday to stabilize a ligament in his right wrist. He is expected to miss four to five months. ... Twins pitcher Jason Marquis, who has been away from the team for two weeks, is likely to open the season on the disabled list. "It's pretty obvious there's not much chance he'll start with us. We'll have to do something," Gardenhire said. Marquis has been with his 7-year-old daughter, who was injured in a bicycle accident. ... After 60 at-bats, Morneau his hitting .250 with three home runs and 13 RBIs. ... In 67 plate appearances, Rays first baseman Carlos Pena has six hits, 11 walks and 23 strikeouts. ... The Rays have played six ties this spring.